On October 15, Garfield County Commissioners settled the lawsuit brought against them for violating Colorado’s Open Meetings Law by local residents from the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress.
“Developing plans for use of our water and land behind closed doors with oil lobbyists while shutting out the public was just plain wrong,” said Leslie Robinson, President of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA).
“The settlement is an admission of wrong-doing by the Garfield County Commissioners and it’s a victory for open, transparent government. We hope that this helps to ensure that our commissioners stop meeting in secret with lobbyists to decide public business, “said Robinson.
The lawsuit was filed in response to the closed-door meeting with oil shale lobbyists, including Read Leaf, and public officials in Vernal, Utah, this past March. All three Garfield County Commissioners, executive director of the National Oil Shale Association, a member of Utah Governor Herbert’s administration and commissioners from other counties in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming attended the meeting.
The lawsuit asserted that the county commissioners violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law when they failed to provide public notice prior to attending and participating in the March meeting. The Open Meetings Law requires public notice anytime a quorum of county commissioners meets to discuss public business.
The lawsuit also sought a judicial declaration that the commissioners acted illegally by violating the Open Meetings Law and an order voiding the county’s April 9th resolution on oil shale, which was based on discussions at the March meeting and was developed with input from oil shale lobbyists.
After the complaint was filed, the Garfield County Commissioners rescinded the oil shale resolution.
In a bi-partisan poll held in September sponsored by the Checks and Balances Project, results found 46 percent of those polled disagreed with the Garfield Board of County Commissioners’ decision to hold a meeting in Utah closed to the public, compared to 42 percent who agreed. More unaffiliated voters disagreed with the Board’s decision to hold the meeting than agreed (48 percent to 41 percent).
Colorado Common Cause obtained 450 pages of documents related to the March 27th meeting in Vernal, Utah through an open records requests.